While recently pulling into the Sports Arena Boulevard parking lot shared by Red Lobster, Phil's BBQ, and other businesses, I saw a San Diego Police Department van parking in front of me. (The SDPD also has a storefront set up in the strip mall.)
I was curious about the sign on the van, which read, “Homeless Outreach Team.” I talked to one of the officers, Jim Livesy, about the program.
Livesy said "H.O.T." has been around for about ten years and was established to assist police officers when they need backup dealing with mostly chronic problems of the homeless, such as alcohol, drugs, and mental-health issues. He said their job is to get the homeless into a treatment program or to the rescue mission downtown.
Officer Livesy said he had waited seven years to get involved with the program and that he loved working with the homeless.
In speaking with his supervisor, Sgt. Rick Schnell, I found out that it is mostly senior officers who are on the H.O.T. detail. They have done years of patrol and wanted to do something different within the department, so it is somewhat difficult to get onto the team. Schnell said he has supervised the group for the past seven years. He said there are five police officers on the response team, and two people that are trained to do psychological work.
Schnell said officers go through sensitivity training in learning how to deal with the chronic problems of homeless people. They work closely with the Serial Inebriate Program, or S.I.P., as it is called by police.